My family and I had been living in our place for three years. It wasn’t a a bad property – there’s a nice view over Budgewoi Lake (although the lake can get a bit smelly!). Then there was a flash flood and our yard was flooded. We were without power for eight days and there was damage to the house too. The water rose up a fair way and the back fence came down. This meant that the back of our property was open to the lake.
Now, I’ve got a three year old child, and she loves to play out the back, but she couldn’t do that anymore. It was unsafe. But try explaining that to a three year old! She wasn’t happy about it.
After the power was restored, we notified the real estate agent about what had happened and filled in all the forms. But they didn’t do the repairs. We kept trying to get them to repair the fence, but nothing happened for six months. That’s a long time to have an unsafe backyard, and not have full use of the property. When we rented the place, it was a fully secure backyard, and that was important for our kids to play in.
I knew about the Tenant Advocates from my last rented place, so I contacted the Central Coast Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (CCTAAS) to see if they could help. Glenda from CCTAAS was really good, and helped me put together an application for the Tribunal to seek an order that the landlord make repairs to the back fence. She helped with the evidence and gave me useful advice.
So push came to shove and I took the landlord to the Tribunal. The Tribunal ordered the landlord to complete the repairs. But they reneged on it and didn’t follow the Tribunal’s orders. Instead, they then gave us a 90 day no-grounds eviction notice! Well, we think that was retaliation because we tried to assert our legal rights. So we went back to the Tribunal to get orders that that was a Retaliatory Eviction and we also sought a rent reduction for the time that we couldn’t use our backyard.
The Tribunal adjourned the hearing but the real estate agent still tried to go behind our backs and get rid of us.
At the Tribunal hearing they squashed the eviction notice because they found that it was indeed retaliatory, but unfortunately they declined our request for compensation. At least we got the repairs to the back fence and we got to stay in the place until we were ready to move.
We started applying for other houses in the area, but that agent wouldn’t even accept our applications. That made me feel really bullied, especially since we’d done nothing wrong. We always paid the rent and kept in advance. As soon as I started making applications with other real estate agents I started getting offers left right and centre.
And it could be my democratic way of thinking, but I can’t help commenting that the landlord owns that house as an investment. It’s their company that owns it. It’s a 50-year-old house, and they’ve done minimal maintenance on it. It’s pretty unfair that they refused to do repairs to make it safe, and tried to kick us out because we asked for what we’re entitled to. There also used to be mould in the house and their fix was just to paint over it – that landlord doesn’t really care about the tenants at all!
Now we’ve left that place and found somewhere else. Our new house is further away from work, but the rent is cheaper and it's bigger, so we’re happy with that.